You will not be alone if, until a few days ago, you had never heard of Matthias Ginter.
He is a 19 year old (or 21 year old, depending on what web site you read) German midfielder who can also play in defence and who has been playing for SC Freiburg. And the story was suddenly out, Arsenal were buying Matthias Ginter for just over £6m.
The Mail said, “Gunners manager Arsene Wenger wants a physical presence at the heart of midfield and was reported over the weekend to have agreed a £6.1million fee for 6ft-plus Germany Under 21 anchor man Ginter.”
It had to be true because it was in the papers, and before the ink was dry there were those blaming Wenger for continuing his policy of buying unknown youngsters – although if he is 21, that’s a bit unfair, but still par for the course – not least because he might be 19.
Then, seemingly within seconds (although actually it took a day) the world moved on. SC Freiburg announced that they had not sold Matthias Ginter to Arsenal.
OK maybe there were still some final negotiations to do. But no, SC Freiburg announced Arsenal had yet to make a bid.
Typical, screamed the blogs. Another ludicrous Arsenal cock-up. Wenger strolling around talking to the media during the irrelevant Emirates Cup. Gazidis off having a holiday in South Africa, South America, South China.. people couldn’t quite decide where but where ever it was it was definitely South.
The club couldn’t even get a bid in. Typical!
And worse, web sites started copying the story that there had been “a swift rebuttal from the Bundesliga club’s sporting director Joachim Saier, who insisted … it would take more than the figure quoted to prise the 19-year-old away.”
More blame on Arsenal.
But let’s pause for a moment. It is possible that none of this story is a story. Let’s imagine that Arsenal were interested and were talking to the German club but no bid had been made. It is not too much stretch of the imagination that getting wind of Arsenal’s interest the player’s agent, seeing the chance of a quick £1m (his percentage for doing nothing much at all) decided to keep the story alive, fearing that Arsenal might back off.
So it is he who leaks the story to the Mail, who, lacking much in the way of investigative reporting, runs it as the agent said. Remember the Mail story… they said it, “was reported over the weekend” that Arsenal had “agreed a £6.1million fee”.
“Was reported” is (I think we all know by now) not English for “happened”. It is in fact English for “this story was made up”. I mean, if the Mail reports it, it probably didn’t happen. If they report that someone else reported it, then it certainly didn’t happen.
I don’t know if Arsenal were interested in the youngster, or whether the whole thing was a figment of an agent’s hyperactive imagination. But if Arsenal were interested this story hasn’t exactly made things any easier for the club.
But here are a couple of other explanations for what has been going on.
First, Arsenal are actually trying to buy someone else, and have let this story drop as a smokescreen to hide the details until the final arrangements have been made. It has been known, and not just by Arsenal.
Second, Arsenal were in negotiations but some party (who will be nameless) actually let slip the details in order to cause Arsenal some grief.
Such ideas may seem a bit like a conspiracy theory, and thus not to be believed, but do remember in considering this tale (which at the moment is going nowhere) that the two reports we have are, in fact, totally contradictory.
The first suggests discussions are going on and Arsenal have put in a bid of £6.1m
The second says that no bid has been made.
Clearly both can’t be true. And that’s really the point – most transfer stories are contradictory.
I have to admit I have no idea whether, as an Arsenal fan, I want the story to be true or false, because I have never heard of the player, let alone seen him play. I just have to wait and see.
But let me end with a different thought. I often hear it said in relation to stories like this, “Why can’t Arsenal get their transfers sorted out like other clubs?”
The fact is that other clubs often go through the same situations. Think about Manchester United and Cesc. Is he free to leave or not? Is there a first refusal for Arsenal, and a sell-on fee for Arsenal if Barcelona do sell him? It seems so, because that’s what Arsenal invariably put into their sales contracts. It looks like a muddle – and if Arsenal do have first refusal, surely Man U should have sorted out Arsenal’s wishes first.
Or take Wayne Rooney to Chelsea. Yes? No? Bale to Real Madrid. Ditto.
Arsenal is no different from other clubs and is certainly not incapable of buying players – especially when not expected to. Remember Santi Cazorla. Picked up at what now looks like a hell of a bargain price out of the blue. Or Arteta – a hugely influential player since we got him and again with only a few days warning. Or the players that come through after a few years like the Ox, Theo, Jack or the often derided but now so much improved Ramsey.
I’m not saying Arsenal don’t need more players. I’m just saying that this current portrayal of Arsenal as a club that always promises to buy, and then never does, is just plain daft. Every club is associated with players that they then don’t buy – but Arsenal has a habit of buying some really interesting and useful players when you least expect it.
And quite often at rather clever prices.